Join the Canadian Navy and find true love; (or not).   1 comment


I just turned 17 while on the train to boot camp – the minimum age to join the Royal Canadian Navy.

It seemed like my best option at the time, having been a ‘runaway’ from home several times beginning at age 6, or was it 7, and feeling (wrongly) that I had few choices.

Away we went, five fresh new recruits from around British Columbia, all the way across the country by train to Cornwallis Nova Scotia. 

At first it seemed more like summer camp, but soon we became fully involved in the discipline of Navy recruits. 

Not that it was all bad.  In fact I personally enjoyed getting to know young men from all across Canada.

One native Indian recruit was particularly entertaining.  In cold pre-dawn morning darkness, when punishing lights were turned on, Jack would say loudly, “well… I guess I gotta’ get up… nothing else to do but roll out..” and other words to that effect, (you had to be there). 

There were guys from Ontario, Quebec, and the Prairie Provinces, many of whom became close friends. One common denominator was a hand of poker, which wasn’t my thing.

It was the so-called ‘G-I’s’ that were the ‘movers and shakers’ at boot camp, with a vocal range that defies human speech.  “By-the-right-QUEEK-‘ARCH!”, became a very familiar refrain.

I fondly recall multiple laps around the parade ground, while forced to carry my FN rifle at the ‘hi-port’ position, usually because I hadn’t executed some GI instruction promptly, or perhaps hadn’t demonstrated the seriousness required, allowing a delinquent grin to cross my youthful face, an inherent tendency of mine.  Regardless I did stick with it.

Recruit movements around Cornwallis base were always ‘at the double’, meaning at a quick trot, no walking allowed whatsoever.  If you were caught walking you would spend many laps around the parade ground ‘at the double’.

Near the end of our boot camp training there was a cross-country race. I completed it in the first 15 or so, out of several hundred recruits.  I was as physically fit as I would ever be.

Personal memories from Cornwallis: you can only begin to appreciate people from close associations.  E.g. I recall one exceptional young man, John, who didn’t fit in, likely he would be described as a ‘nurd’ today.  At one point he completely disassembled his wrist watch because it had stopped working, laying out every tiny component on his bunk, then perfectly re-built it to working condition.  He was probably some kind of genius, but unfortunately he was always out of step in parade and never made it through boot camp.

Most recruits did successfully finish boot camp, including all from B.C.  After four months we were allowed to return home for two weeks before joining ‘the fleet’ on either the East or West coast.  Most of the B.C boys were assigned to the West coast, but my choice was to see the world starting from the East coast in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

On the way home from camp I met the most stunning beauty I will ever know.  She had just arrived in Canada from Denmark. and was travelling by train to somewhere in Ontario. 

We were on the train heading West from Halifax when I first saw her.  She had already caught the attention of five or six of my uniformed mates and was surrounded by them in a club car.   But as soon as I spotted her, with no hesitation I boldly inserting myself in the group right opposite her, and used my one and only Danish expression, namely; “wooden, ha do di eday?”, which simply means; “hello how are you?”. 

I had learned it from a high-school buddy immigrant from Denmark.

Apparently I spoke well enough in Danish that she assumed I could speak her language, the only one in the group.  This gave me a break-through priority to steal center stage.  It actually took considerable broken English after that to convince her I only knew about five words of Danish.  By that time we were quickly becoming, shall we say, ‘soul-mates’? 

The other boot camp recruits gradually moved away.  They seemed to silently acknowledge our quickly growing mutual attraction.  Thus began a language-faltering, but somehow symbiotic relationship as the train went ‘clickety-click’ heading west.  I seems it was ‘love at first sight’.

In fact we were so attracted to each other that by the time the train reached Montreal, with a three or four hour layover connection schedule, we walked around downtown near the train station to dancing club bars in that wide-open city. 

We danced and starred into each other’s eyes, and I will never forget the head-turning looks she got from others, especially men. She was a true beauty for sure, but seemed charmingly unaware of it.  We returned just in time to the train station to make our respective connections, sadly she was ticketed to go North, and me to the West. 

However, after increasingly passionate tip-toe kisses (she was at least 2 inches taller than my five feet nine inches), she pleaded with me to accompany her to the North, and was I hugely tempted.

If it had not been for my boot-camp buddies on hand to literally force me to continue on our West-bound train connection, it would have been a truly life-changing moment.  A cross-road I have often speculated on since that day.

Soon after I arrived home she confirmed her sincere feelings for me by writing a letter in broken English. I wrote back but did not really know what to say because the Navy was to be in control of my future for the next five years. 

The truth is that at 17, a city kid from Vancouver, I was no-where near mature enough to begin building a life together with her, even if she was.

And now, 50 years in the future no less, I can only ask my first true love: “how has your life turned out sweet Vibeke Christiensen??” (p.s. if anyone knows, please let me know)


Posted September 23, 2010 by New2view in historical, humanity, life, philosophy

One response to “Join the Canadian Navy and find true love; (or not).

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  1. Rattling great visual appeal on this site, I’d rate it 10 10.

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